Once, in answer to a question, Lord Buddha outlined a set of principles that human beings should follow in life. The first of these principles is right ideology or “samyak darshana”. Human beings should base their lives on an ideology. Those without an ideology do not view the world rationally or benevolently, but view it with the greedy eye of an exploiter. However, those who follow the guiding principles of a radiant ideology, can better view and judge the world. In order to prevent human degradation, ideology is indispensable. The earlier one embraces an ideology, the better it is because first, sufficient time is needed to assimilate the ideology and second, one can never say with certainty how long one will live – many people die in the prime of life.
The decision to lead a family life or to become a sannyasin should be taken at the proper time. What is the use of becoming a sannyasin during old age? How can a person have enough strength to serve the society at that time? Everything should be done at the right moment.
One should follow an ideology which encourages the development of a universal outlook. It should not be based on narrow ideas. In the past, ideologies were based on very limited ideas and thus people had to undergo endless troubles. Due to constant fighting between various communities, the human society has suffered tremendously.
The second principle is right determination or “samyak saḿkalpa”. One should decide as early as possible how one will lead one’s life. Family people are required to know the necessary rules and regulations for living an ideal family life, and must follow them in both letter and spirit. They will have to take the vow to render more service to the society. Actually, they have two families; one is their small family, having five or six members, and the other is the larger family, that is, the entire human society. Human beings should understand at an early age how they will fulfil their duty. “Should I give up my home and adopt the life of a sannyasin for the well-being of the larger society, or should I move ahead, maintaining a happy balance between my small family and the large family?” One will have to take a vow to follow either of these two paths. For the sannyasins, there is one family – the larger family, that is, the entire universe. Sannyasins own everything or nothing. However, for the family people there are two distinct families, one small and one large, and they are to serve both. Thus the householder’s path is not any easier or simpler, but is quite complex. One should first understand the two paths and then take a vow to follow one of them faithfully. One should make a firm determination to fully establish oneself in life. Only in this way can a human being attain fulfilment. Anyone living such a life cannot be tormented by the agony of disappointment and frustration.
The third principle is right speech or “samyak vák”. Here “vák” includes all the sensory and motor organs; not only the vocal cord.
Vacchad váunmanasi prájinastad yacchajjinána mátmani
Jiṋamátmani mahati niyacchettad yacchecchánya átmani.
Human beings have ten organs: five sensory – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin; and five motor – vocal cord, hands, feet, anus, and genital organ. According to some people, there is an eleventh organ, the mind. One will have to think deeply about the best way to utilize these organs and act accordingly. One should think about their utilization before doing something, and not after.
Cakkhuna samvaro sádhu, sádhu sotena samvaro
Ghánena samvaro sádhu, sádhu vácáya samvaro
Manasá samvaro sádhu, sádhu sabbattha samvaro
Sabbattha samvaro bhikkhu sabba dukkhe pamuccati.
Buddha says, “Think once before you speak. If you have the eyes to see, cast a quick glance before you look at anything, otherwise, do not look at all, because whatever you see will influence the mind. Don’t listen to anything which is not worth hearing. Only listen to that which purifies and elevates the mind.” Human beings should control their organs in this way. The organs should be controlled by the mind and not the mind controlled by the organs. This is samyak vak.
The fourth principle is right livelihood or “samyak ájiiva”. Ájiiva means “livelihood” in Saḿskrta. Unscrupulous people earn a lot of money from actions which are by nature sinful and harmful for the world. Human beings should not earn their livelihood in this way. Their means of livelihood should be pure and sacred and should not harm anyone. Lord Buddha’s father was called “Shuddhodana”. “Shuddha” means “pure” and “odana” means “rice” (or any staple food) or “means of livelihood”, so Shuddhodana literally means a person who lives by honest means, whose food is accepted by all.
The fifth principle is right exercise or “samyak vyáyam”. Many people do physical training and play sport to strengthen their bodies. But human beings are not only endowed with a body – they have a mind and a soul as well, and an equal importance should be given to strengthening all three. There should also be proper exercise for mental development and spiritual elevation – one should not neglect the mind or the soul. What is the best way to strengthen the mind? The best and proper way is to strictly observe the 16 Points [physical, mental and spiritual exercises for the all-round development of the individual]. The more rigidly you follow the 16 Points, the more your mental strength will increase. It will increase so much that it will be more powerful than the collective mental strength of 100,000 people. In a psychic clash they will have to concede victory to you. A person who is physically strong can fight against eight, ten or twenty people at most, but no more than that. A psychically developed person, however, is able to fight against many more people. So you must endeavour to develop your psychic strength - this is your bounden duty. The more rigidly you follow the 16 Points, the more psychic strength you will acquire. It will not take you long. The only way to develop spiritual strength is to surrender everything to Him – the more you surrender yourself to Him, the more you will develop your soul. Such development will lead to not only 10,000 people surrendering before you, but the entire universe. This is right exercise. Exercise is necessary, not only in the physical sphere, but also in the psychic and spiritual spheres.
The sixth principle is proper finishing or “samyak karmántua”. Once you have started a task, you should finish it in the proper way. Do not leave anything half finished or half done. Finish your work and finish it properly. If you are sure you will, start the work and do not leave it until its completion. This is the spirit of proper finishing.
The seventh principle is right memory or “samyak smrti”. The literal meaning of smrti is “memory”. Many people have asked me how they can increase their power of memory. Personally, I know quite a few secrets in this regard, as well as a number of physical exercises which increase the power of memory. In our 16 Points there are a number of psychic exercises which also help. In my experience, however, the quickest way is to meditate on that person who has a tremendously powerful memory. You should remember to use guru mantra regularly before every action. One attains success in the field of action by the right application of guru mantra. Some of you, I do not say all, often forget to use guru mantra before starting an activity. If you do forget, repeat it after completing the action. When one no longer makes such a mistake, that is, when one always remembers to use guru mantra before starting any activity, one is said to have attained “dhruva smrti” or “fixed memory”. Dhruva means “fixed”, “stationary”. When, by dint of sádhaná, one establishes oneself in dhruva smrti, one experiences an unbroken flow of bliss in one’s mind. In the scriptures, this intense spiritual bliss is termed “dharma meghánanda”. Whenever you develop that sort of fixed memory, you will experience dharma meghánandá.
The last and eighth principle is right absorption or “samyak samádhi”. Here samádhi signifies a state of intense love or attachment for a particular object. Except that object, one forgets everything else in the universe, even oneself. This is the state called samádhi. When human beings’ love for Parama Puruśa becomes so intense that they forget everything else in the universe, including themselves, they attain spiritual samádhi. Lord Buddha was referring to this spiritual samádhi when he spoke of samyak samádhi.
2 January 1979, Patna